Fresh trouble is brewing at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) with Dr James Ocita, a lecturer in the Literature department, saying the institute could crumble soon due to mismanagement.
In a six-page memo emailed to all staff at the institute on September 13, Ocita accuses Prof Mahmood Mamdani, the director of MISR of undermining his students, staff and the faculty.
He warns that unless something is done to avert the looming crisis, the MISR academic programme may collapse soon. Ocita, who served as a research associate and assistant director at MISR, says there is need to check Prof Mamdani's management style.
Ocita claims that 23 students have dropped from the highly-rated PhD programme run by the institute over the past six years. According to Ocita, the number includes students who left voluntarily and those who lost their scholarships.
He says three of the seven students admitted in the first year of the PhD programme dropped out. A similar number reportedly dropped out in the second year out of the ten students admitted on the programme.
In the third year, five of the ten students admitted to the programme dropped out; while five of the 12 students admitted in the fifth year of the programme also dropped out.
This excludes a student whose scholarship was cancelled before he reported in 2013 on medical grounds. One of the students admitted in the fifth year of the programme lost her funding.
According to Dr Ocita, although a Good Samaritan offered to pay her tuition, the administration at MISR has declined to clear her to study as a private student for over a year now. He says two students are studying without any real chance of graduating.
Dr Ocita claims that one of the students has already transferred to another university although he hasn't officially communicated his withdrawal from MISR.
"One, having had his funding terminated for two years, has resumed and now is at the same stage as the current 4th year, with an unclear funding status," Dr Ocita notes.
He blamed the exit of students from the programme on malice, discrimination, injustice, abuse of power, examination procedures and administrative ineptitude.
"The only reason I won't get into the details of specific cases is because at least three of these students have decided to take legal action against MISR and the university for failing to supervise MISR and Mamdani effectively and a good number are still hoping against hope to get some form of justice," Ocita told URN.
URN tried to contact Mamdani through his assistants in vain. However, our reporter was able to get his response to Ocita's memo that was sent on the staff mailing list.
He accuses Ocita of spreading falsehoods, saying he has for long been hoping for the collapse of the programme. Mamdani wants the university to discipline Ocita for spreading 'falsehoods' about the PhD programme.
He also denies claims that the institute has been dragged to court, saying there hasn't been a case concerning MISR since he took over as director in 2010. Mamdani further explains that a total of 60 students have enrolled on the PhD program since it started in 2012, 28 of whom have graduated.
According to Mamdani, from 2012 to 2015, a total of 23 students successfully submitted their PhD proposals, three successfully defended their PhD dissertation and 19 are writing their PhD theses. He says another six are currently doing fieldwork while four will begin fieldwork in 2018.
"Now that the facts are pointing otherwise, to a consolidation of the programme, it should also not be surprising that he has decided to fabricate his own facts. Should the university allow him to spread these falsehoods in the public domain with impunity, hoping to bring on the collapse he has all along predicted gleefully?" Mamdani asked.
This is not the first time Mamdani's management style is being questioned at MISR. In April last year, he clashed with Dr Stella Nyanzi, a research fellow at the institute. It all started after Mamdani asked Nyanzi to vacate her office at MISR following her refusal to teach under the PhD programme yet it was one of the grounds under, which she was confirmed in the university service to the post of research fellow.
Mamdani also blamed Nyanzi for not participating in any of the related MISR research programmes and asked her to vacate the office and use the MISR library for any activities that she is involved in.
Nyanzi wouldn't have any of this. She staged a nude protest at the institute defaced walls, vandalized property and hurled insults at the MISR leadership to expose the rot at MISR and show disgust against Mamdani's autocratic management style leading to her suspension and the formation of a committee headed by Hajjati Sharifah Buzeki from the public service commission to investigate the falling out between the two.
Buzeki’s committee largely found Nyanzi culpable of insubordination and failure to honour her employment contract.
In January this year, Ocita accused the MISR director of using his political connections to turn the institute into his personal project.
“We are just emerging from a year-long saga involving accusations of victimisation, segregation, favouritism, general disregard for institutional structures and policies, etc. It is quite unfortunate that even before the pending complaints have been resolved, we have started the New Year doing exactly the same thing we have been accused of,” wrote Ocita in a lengthy memo to all staff.